Circular Design in the Built Environment (MSc)

Circularity is often narrowed down to reuse and recycling, but on a systemic level it is about staying within planetary boundaries. This concerns energy, materials, waste ánd emissions: the whole picture. In a circular world energy and materials are renewable and their use stays within renewability rates. Waste and emissions are released at or below harmless rates. We are far from that balanced situation. For example, renewable energy relies on non-renewable metals that are in short supply due to growth, and environmental shadow costs of metals are sky high; bio based materials are the only materials that allow sustain-able growth, but not all of them are immediately available; various emission rates are still excessive. Economists now redefine "progress" and "costs". Once we understand the big picture, we can effectively explore circularity in planetary and urban spatial planning, (re-)design of buildings and elements, mining and cycling of materials.

We will go through this by lectures, assignments and a personal research a/o design project. We explicitly invite and welcome also students from other disciplines and domains than Built Environment, as there are many sides (a.o. ecological, technological, societal, behavioral, economic) to this problem.

This program contains a course (5EC, Q1) with theoretical lectures and active assignments and a personalized follow-up research a/o design project (10EC, Q3+4).

7XC1M0 Circularity in the Built Environment

This course (5EC, Q1) introduces first of all circularity as the problem of planetary (resource) management, with a central role for rates and planetary boundaries. Energy, materials, waste and emissions are studied separately and in cohesion. Then we explore the idea of a circular economy, highlighting 21st century attempts to (re)define boundaries, "progress" and "costs" and consider fair distribution. We will study and exercise various circularity and sustainability assessments. After this broad introduction we move on to the built environment and zoom in from large to small. What does circularity mean for planetary and urban spatial planning? How to design circular buildings on conceptual and technical level? How to redesign the numerous existing buildings that were not designed with these considerations? What is a circular product or component? And how to select materials? What should we know about their impacts, their availability, their mining and their recycling? After exploring these issues, you are asked to define 3 personal research questions in the domains of technology, economy and humanities.

7XC2M0 Circularity Research a/o Design Project

This project (10EC, Q3+Q4) builds on the knowledge, insights and questions that were acquired in the prior course. Every student or group of students defines their own follow-up research a/o design question. The project is tutored by staff from various backgrounds. Your research question can be about spatial planning, cities, buildings, products or materials; about technology, economy and humanities.

In projects with a focus on measuring, monitoring and evaluating you develop an appropriate customized quantitative assessment method, based on existing circularity/sustainability indicators/criteria, for the case you work on; and you apply this assessment to analyze and evaluate a complex existing situation. In projects with a focus on research for design/development you define a challenging circularity/sustainability problem; analyze it, suggest and develop an innovative (low/high) technological solution and evaluate its effect with an appropriate quantitative assessment.


  • This TU/e Certificate is issued by the Department of the Built Environment, and regulated by its Exam Committee and Regulations.
  • The course (Q1) is prior knowledge for the project (Q3+Q4) and should be completed before attending the latter.
  • The course can also be followed separately as an elective.
  • The program is open for students with a BSc degree.
  • The certificate program has an extent of 15 EC, of which 5 EC will come on top of your regular master program of 120 EC.

Directly to

More information

Want to know more? Contact ir. Hajo Schilperoort via the contact form below.